10 Ways to Make Your ROI More Measurable

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Some customer service ROI figures are too broad and unusable. What’s one way to make it small, measurable and impactful?


1. Start with a Net Promoter Score.

The Net Promoter Score is a very easy way to measure customer satisfaction. Customers can rate their likeliness to recommend a company on a 1-to-10 score. It’s very easy to implement and there are public benchmarks for every industry. An NPS tracked over time lets a customer service team and the company see how they are performing over time, as well as whether any changes have a positive impact.

– Adelyn ZhouTOPBOTS 


2. Look to retention and growth.

Every interaction holds an opportunity to understand the impact of customer success. The most important will always be retention and growth, but every interaction holds the opportunity to understand the impact of customer success or service. CSAT surveys after any significant interaction give you the opportunity to get a pulse on your customer and respond to their feedback. Trends will emerge and you can adjust quickly ahead of the lagging indicators of retention and growth.

– Kristine SteuartAllocadia 


3. Segment the ROI data.

All ROI data is broad until you segment your clients by certain parameters. Examples of some could be age, area, referrals, clients who purchased within the year, ones who didn’t and so on. Once you start segmenting the data, those broad numbers become laser focused, which will give you the most impactful data needed.

– Raymond KishkInterstate Air Conditioning & Heating 


4. Focus on the biggest failures.

Don’t get overwhelmed by too much data. Instead, focus on the area where you know that you’re having the most problems and use the data to look for specific insights that might help you solve your problems. For example, how long it takes for customers to hear back on an issue they’ve complained about, or how satisfied they are that their problem was solved via a customer service call.

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate 


5. Tie it directly to a KPI.

Customer service is about satisfaction and problem-solving. Train your people to be able to set specific objectives for the ideal result of a customer service interaction. Track those ideal outcomes as KPIs. Then you will be able to convince clients or upper management about the significance of such measures.

– Duran InciOptimum7 


6. Let the CEO answer some calls.

Identifying value in customer service requires everyone getting involved. Being in the trenches provides unusual insight into what customers are saying about your company. Identifying the best return on your customer service dollars will become more evident when the CEO gets to answer calls. Armed with real customer experiences, your team will be able to identify the best ROI opportunities.

– Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors 


7. Choose one area to study.

Pick one area of customer service, such as timely responses, and measure that to see if the tactics implemented have made improvements or more needs to be done. Too many companies generalize customer service and do not segment these based on response time, assistance level or customer return rate, for example.

– John RamptonDue 


8. Call a few customers each month.

There are plenty of systems out there that harvest and harness reviews from customers. While these services are vital, to truly find out if your customer service is generating ROI, pick up the phone and call a few customers each month and actually speak with them. Not only will you see what is working, you will build an amazing level of loyalty to your brand.

– Ryan BradleyKoester & Bradley, LLP 


9. Ask users specific questions in polls.

Get customer reviews, but make sure they aren’t broad questions. Don’t ask “Are you satisfied with our service?,” but instead ask, “Are you satisfied with the way X product has improved X part of your life?” Be as specific as possible and target a specific audience. Change your questions and ask on a regular schedule. That way, you can track and use the results in advertising, etc.

– Kevin ConnerVast Bridges 


10. Measure real results.

As is the case with most metrics, the numbers aren’t always telling the full story. Oftentimes, you’ll find there is a lot of unsubstantiated claims being made about the accuracy of ROI data, and so it’s important to sift through the false data and dig into the real results. If something seems difficult to quantify or prove, it likely is and should be ignored.

– Blair ThomasFirst American Merchant

How to Bolster Your Brand Influence in 2017

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What are some key ways to bolster your online brand’s influence in 2017?

1. Tell Original Stories

Businesses that conduct original research and investigate interesting topics in their niche will have a powerful advantage in 2017. That’s because everyone remembers a good story. So, to bolster your brand’s online influence, you should invest in in-depth storytelling to educate and surprise your audience with new information, backed by data, unique anecdotes and hard facts.

Firas KittanehAmerisleep


2. Post About Successes and Failures

 Post about your successes and your failures. People are just as apt to click on something to find out what not to do as they are on a success story. Another crucial key is to start sending the ladder back down. Are you actively trying to promote new voices? Show points of view that may differ from your own? That’s how to make it to the top.

Maren HoganRed Branch Media


3. Gather Data

 In a world where most of your influence and marketing are digital, you need to be gathering data to optimize. Figure out which messages resonate with which demographics, which platforms are best at which times of day, and what kinds of visual content have the biggest impact. Make better underlying decisions to have a better overall outcome.

Brennan WhiteCortex


4. Optimize for Search Engines

I expect SEO to continue to be an even stronger channel for many of the top brands in 2017. Nailing the basics will bolster brands online presence and, in turn, their influence. By publishing great content — eg; thought leadership, Q&As and data-centered pieces — customers will naturally gravitate towards your brand more and more. And, thankfully, Google will reward you for it.

Corey EulasFactorial Digital


5. Create Collaborative Content

 Partner with complimentary brands in a collaborative article to boost each other’s traffic and influence. Create a piece of content, whether it be a contest or an article that spotlights actionable tips for the readers. Each brand shares the content to their subscribers and followers. Everyone benefits by gaining exposure to each others followers, gaining traffic and broader influence.

Aggie BurnettAB Creative


6. Cater to Your Core

 First of all, you have to cater to your core customers. If you are developing an app geared toward millennials or teens who are often on Facebook and Instagram, then LinkedIn is probably not your best platform. You have to be knowledgeable about who and where your core audience is, and then you need to increase your ability to capture that audience by using the right social media outlets.

Fabio VivianiFabio Viviani Hospitality LLC,


7. Tap into Immersive Experiences

 With innovative technologies like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and Pokemon GO, virtual reality and augmented reality should be on every brand’s radar for 2017. Clients all want in on the action of the next best thing, so positioning your company as an early adopter of AR or VR will help you stay relevant. Not to mention AR and VR are popular on social media, and make for great content marketing.

Robert De Los SantosSky High Party Rentals


8. Speak at Conferences

 Speaking at popular conferences is huge in two ways. You establish your brand and expertise with your peers and potential leads in the audience. And, perhaps even more importantly, video of your presentation will be uploaded to YouTube. This video will be publicized via the conference organizer’s social media channels, and, if you’re lucky, by attendees who were impressed by what you said.

Vik PatelFuture Hosting


9. Produce Videos

 Producing creative videos — whether it’s informative, for a product, or pure entertainment — will definitely capture the attention of more browsers than text, even those with big, colorful letters! Don’t overthink the video. Just focus on the objective, keep it simple and, most importantly, produce a quality production. Unless it’s breaking news, steer clear of phone video.

Duran InciOptimum7


10. Establish Yourself Through Podcasts

 Podcasts can be a great branding tool. Whether you have your own podcast or you appear as a guest on one, it’s a growing trend in building your brand’s digital influence. It’s a great way for entrepreneurs starting out to establish themselves as thought leaders and experts in their field.

Brian David CraneCaller Smart Inc.


11. Develop an Influencer Network

 When I started reaching out to influencers, I was shocked to discover how accessible and friendly they were. Reaching out to influencers and developing relationships has directly led me to guest blogging opportunities, critical introductions, and even to having my own Inc. column. None of those would have been possible without some old fashioned, strategic networking.

Peter KozodoyGEM Advertising


12. Budget for It

Set aside a budget to use on digital promotion. More and more sites are adhering to the “pay for play” model, so it’s important to not get left behind due to a lack of proper budgeting.

Leila LewisBe Inspired PR



13. Spotlight Customers

 Something I recently started for my business is taking the spotlight off of us and putting it instead on our customers. We really want to show potential clients what we can do, and we are doing this by illustrating what we have done. We turn the attention on one client each month in our “Customer Spotlight” series, and showcase how our business is benefiting the client for years to come.

Zev HermanSuperior Lighting


14. Write a Book

 The most powerful way to build your brand’s influence is to help educate and empower your potential customers. Many companies do this through thought leadership articles and speeches, but today, nothing has more power than a book. Even in the internet age, there is no other medium that displays authority, impacts and influences others, and spreads a message the way that a book does.

Zach ObrontBook in a Box

12 Items You Should Never Forget To Include in a Partnership Agreement

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What should you absolutely not forget to include in a business partnership agreement?

1. What Will Happen if it Doesn’t Work Out 

Sharam Fouladgar-MercerThis should be a given, but let’s talk about it for the sake of reiterating its importance. Any business partnership agreement should clearly outline what steps will be taken should the partnership go astray. People despise discussing this, but the reality is that we live in a world where disagreement happens and it’s best to have a plan in place in case it does occur.

– Sharam Fouladgar-MercerAirPR 


2. Equity Valuation and Buy-Sells 

Chris SmithNames, ownership equity, and how the business is going to be operated are always must-haves. However, most problems arise when there’s not a clear method for valuing the equity down the road, or when there’s no buy-sell agreement included. Always know how equity is valued should it need to be sold to or purchased by another partner, and don’t forget to properly fund your buy-sell agreement.

– Chris SmithSuperius Ventures, LLC and Smith Simmons, PLLC 


3. Legal Inclusions 

Peggy ShellWhile it’s important to include standard legal items, such as non-solicitation of your employees, confidentiality, and ownership of work product, one important thing to never forget is clarifying the business relationship. The Department of Labor errs against employers in situations where a business partner might be considered an employee, so including clarifying language is key.

– Peggy ShellCreative Alignments 


4. A Vesting Schedule 

Chris BrissonOne of the biggest mistakes I made in my company early on was the fact that my partners and I vested immediately. The was a problem after one year when my partner decided to stop working and took another job. I was left holding the bag to grow the company while he still had shares in the business. A typical vesting schedule has a four-year cliff. Be sure to set this up in the beginning.

– Chris BrissonCall Loop 


5. How a Buy-Out Will Be Paid 

Elle KaplanIn the event that a partner splits, it’s vital to determine how they’ll receive their fair share of the business. If this isn’t in writing, they could request all of their payout at once, and feasibly bankrupt the business. By determining a payout structure, you can ensure a clean, positive break-up.

– Elle KaplanLexION Capital 


6. Roles and Responsibilities 

Murray NewlandsRoles and responsibilities should be clearly delineated from the beginning and in writing so there is no confusion, and to minimize or even eliminate conflict. It keeps everyone on the same page from the start and lets each partner go out and get done what they need to without question.

– Murray NewlandsDue.com 


7. Operating Agreements 

Tommy MelloThis is the foundation of the business that handles everything from A to Z. In most agreements, you should discuss what happens if one partner has health issues or wants out. Also, take consideration of voting rights and who is on the hook for what. All the key elements should be discussed and documented in the operating agreement. This is the prenuptial agreement for business partners.

– Tommy MelloA1 Garage Door Service 


8. Expectations for Hours, Vacation and Company Budget 

James McDonoughEveryone has very different expectations for how many hours they should put in, how much vacation, and generally on what and where the precious company budget should be spent. Sit down with your partner and draw out what a year would look like for all expenses and time commitment with best/worst case scenarios. You will uncover some interesting discussion areas.

– James McDonoughSEE Forge creators of FAT FINGER 


9. How Costs Will Be Shared 

Cody McLainMost individuals enter into partnerships based on the fact that there could be a high return in the form of equity. Equity is fantastic, but the reality in accounting terms is that the individual who shoulders the most costs will in effect be the one with the greater equity. Cost sharing is an important part of equity sharing, and it informs how the pendulum of equity will swing over time.

– Cody McLainSupportNinja 


10. What if a Partner Is Injured or Dies? 

Cassandra BaileyYou have to think about a business partnership agreement as if it’s a prenuptial agreement. Even if you hope nothing bad will happen, you still have to prepare for the worst. Have steps in place in case an acquisition or a merger occurs. If a partner is injured or if the partner dies, there needs to be a solution in the agreement.

– Cassandra BaileySlice Communications 


11. Non-Compete / Non-Disparagement Clauses 

Kristopher JonesUnfortunately, business partnerships don’t always work out. In fact, sometimes business partnerships can go wrong and a former partner can abruptly quit only to start a competing business. The partner may also say nasty things about you or your business. Therefore, it’s very important to include a non-compete and non-disparagement clause in a partnership agreement to eliminate issues later.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com 


12. General Expectations 

Ismael WrixenUnexpressed expectations are equal to premeditated resentment. Although you can include conduct and expectations in a separate document, it should be a part of your partnership agreement. Otherwise, you could end up resenting your partner, and that’s not good for business. You need to be on the same page in terms of the goals you’re trying to achieve, even if you have your differences.

– Ismael WrixenFE International 

The Differences Between Silent Partners and Investors

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How is a silent partner different from an investor and when should you consider one vs. an investor?


1. An Investor Helps Directly With Operations 

Angela McCroryAn investor is someone who not only invests in a company but also plays a role in the daily operations and management decisions. A silent partner usually invests a large sum of money but prefers not to be involved in the daily operations. If you are looking for advice and help, you want an investor. If you need a cash infusion to grow, but already have a plan outlined, go for a silent partner.

– Angela McCroryRukkus 


2. A Silent Partner Adds Funding While Minimizing Feedback 

Hongwei LiuActive investors want (and expect) to be helpful. Silent partners want to invest in your company but trust in existing management and active investors to make the decisions. A company should take silent partners if the goal is to add funding while minimizing feedback. Active investors should be sought after to lead funding as they provide valuable insight to help you get to the next milestone.
– Hongwei Liumappedin 


3. The “Silent” Partner Comes With Ups and Downs 

Kenneth CucchiaMy initial investor was silent (usually pre-seed/seed). As a 22-year-old kid with a fat check, I was happy as could be. I would have done some things differently knowing what I know today, but that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship. It’s the game that never ends and there’s no rule book. My advice now would be to get an initial investor who can guide you instead of letting you think you know it all.

– Kenneth CucchiaDeals4Meals.com 


4. The Difference Is Trust 

Tyler HanwayA silent partner trusts you because of past experiences together and provides money to grow the business. He or she is not involved in the day-to-day operations and the relationship is less formal compared to investors. Although it may be easier to find investors, if you are able to find a silent partner in the early stages of your business, you’ll be able to spend more time building the company.

– Tyler HanwayConsumer Brands, LLC 


5. Truly Silent Partners Are Basically Investors 

Brennan WhiteSilent partners are basically investors with founder-level upside. Even investors are expected to help with advice, introductions, hiring, etc. If your partner is truly silent, the financial contribution has to be massive to make sense. Especially in today’s investing climate, it’s easy to find more traditional investors.

– Brennan WhiteCortex 


6. Silent Partners Have Limited Liability 

Nicolas GremionSilent partners may have a say in the overall operations of the business, but generally stay out of the daily affairs. One benefit is potentially being less liable in the event of legal actions. Silent partners can take a limited-liability partnership in the company. As such, they may have more influence on the overall business than an investor, while still being protected in case of a lawsuit.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net


7. A Silent Partner Is Less Involved 

john ramptonA silent partner really isn’t a partner at all except to provide some money to fuel the startup’s growth. The silence can be nice to a certain degree, but I’ve always found it more helpful to have an investor that provides advice, counsel, contacts and more — or even, in some situations, rolls up their sleeves and pitches in. Going it alone can be scary and take even longer.

– John RamptonDuecom 


8. Their Role Depends Entirely on Your Agreements 

David MainieroThe distinction between taking on “outside” investors and starting with or bringing on “inside” (silent) partners entirely depends on how you’ve constructed your operating agreements or equity structure. You need to consider the role of your capital providers and what role you want them to play. Do you need their networks? Just their money? Their advice?

– David MainieroInGenius Prep 


9. Silent Partners Don’t Have as Much Control as Investors Do 

Vishal ShahSilent partners hold an equity position (just like angel investors) but do not have substantial control over the business any more than the founders do, as they hold the same class of common shares. It makes the most sense to have silent partners if you are only looking for capital infusion in exchange for equity, but do not wish to give up control of your business.

– Vishal ShahNoPaperForms 


10. The Difference Is in the Return 

Nicole MunozA silent partner is taking a risk investing with you, and they’ll usually expect a bigger return on their investment. On the flip side, an investor is someone who gives you money and relies completely on you to generate the return. There are key differences in the way the SEC classifies silent partners and investors, so do your research before you decide which route to take.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now 


11. Silent Partners Don’t Exist Unless They Are Family 

Andre ChandraSilent partners are never silent, and rightfully so — it’s their money! The closest to a silent partner are family members, who may still love you no matter what happens to the money, but even this can vary from family to family. Rather than becoming a silent partner, I would much prefer a loan.

– Andre ChandraI Print N Mail 


12. A Silent Partner Is a Passive Participant 

Alfredo AtanacioA silent partner is an appropriate alternative when you’re not looking for someone to actively contribute to your business, share responsibilities or share in the company’s profits. You may want to seek out an investor if you are looking for more involvement in your company. Legally, bringing in an investor is complicated, so you need to be clear that it’s the right source of financing for you.

– Alfredo AtanacioUassist.ME 


13. Consider a Loan Before a Silent Partner 

Justin BlanchardInvestors typically bring value in addition to cash. Silent partners don’t contribute more than money — or they don’t unless they think you’re not maximizing the value of their investment. Silent partners may not stay silent. A loan gives you the cash infusion without risk of interference unless you default. Which you choose depends on your business’ needs, but talk to a lawyer regardless.

– Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc. 

How to Scale Sales Without Adding Headcount

how your startup can scale your sales departmentStart-up companies often face a classic catch-22: they need to invest in a sales team to generate revenue but lack the funds for hiring more reps. What most companies fail to realize is that they already have the right staff; it’s their processes that are dragging them down.

Let me give you an example. While shadowing a rep earlier this year, I observed six total call attempts in a little over an hour. The rep never talked with a prospect live. He jumped from webinar follow-ups from a variety of different sources to following up with prospects at different stages of a campaign. In addition, he was calling prospects with different titles paths and company profile. Of course he felt it necessary to research before every call so he could be prepared.

Unfortunately, this chaotic pattern represents how most inside sales teams operate. They have nearly complete autonomy and are only responsible for achieving activity metrics. Since they don’t follow a lead generation process, there’s no way for managers to understand what’s working and what isn’t.

Scalability isn’t always about adding headcount. Every time I’ve consulted with companies on improving their lead generation and B2B appointment setting results, I have implemented process changes that can significantly impact production of the team without having to add headcount. Here’s how:

1. Invest in a quality data source.

Most data sources need to be cleansed to ensure titles are relevant and accurate, and contact information is correct and complete. Asking sales reps to do this detracts from their productivity, so I always recommend investing in custom cleansing so reps are handed great data. Spending time to cleanse the data also can significantly boost results. Cleansed data can increase response rates by 300 percent with the same team using the same messaging.

2. Structure data into groups of similar leads.

Leads can be grouped by lead source, title path, industry, company size and/or message tactic. This allows sales reps to prep once for calls to an entire group, instead of prepping for each call. This also gives managers the ability to customize messaging strategies to entire groups to improve results.

3. Implement a call cadence.

A cadence is a structured campaign approach that includes a pattern of emails, calls and voicemail messages. This allows managers to pinpoint when diminishing returns takes place, and to identify which aspects of the cadence work best. The process becomes very predictable and efficient. It’s important to note that there is no single or universal cadence that will work for ALL your leads. Different personas might require different cadences.

Another option for start-ups is to outsource lead generation, which may be an attractive way to forgo all the technology and human capital costs needed, and start generating revenue immediately.

For more sales tips and tricks, make sure to check out Hunckler’s sales secrets from the Philippines!

How to Win at Google’s Game

1“Play their game. You need to embrace that they have a business model. Embrace it and the rules are there. Play the game.” – Ryan Mull, Partner and Director at Imavex

In the game of business, the premise is simple: make more money than you spend. When you take your business online, the game gets more complicated. Cheats and shortcuts that were once overlooked can be taken away, and even the rules you were playing by can change and essentially leave you starting over.

Google is famous for switching the rules of the game, especially when it comes to SEO. Why can this one company have such a big impact? It’s simple. Google controls 65% of the search results on the Internet and 80% of ads online.

So if you’re relying solely on Google’s benevolence to reward you with information or page rankings for free, be prepared to be disappointed. After all, Google’s shareholders demand that it make a profit, and it makes 95% of its profits through its ad network, AdWords.

Not only has Google gotten stingier with free information, but the portion of Internet real estate given to ads in comparison to organic search rankings has grown. Ryan Mull at July’s Smartups said,“I wouldn’t be surprised if the first page or two within the next four or five years is all ads.” Here are a couple of screenshots that show the difference between search results in 2007 and search results now, provided by Ryan Mull. You can clearly see the how much more space Google is giving to ads. Those, images on the right in 2014 are ads as well.

Google search in 2007


Google search in 2014


Google isn’t the only brand to restrict access to free marketing. In January, Facebook followed in Google’s footsteps and announced that it was changing the news feed algorithm for businesses so that their page updates would only show to a very small percentage of their followers. Now if companies want to share content with a large percentage of their customers, they need to buy ads. And if Google and Facebook have changed the game, chances are LinkedIn, Twitter, and others aren’t far behind.

So how can startups with small budgets make PPC work for them while they still work on their SEO?

Utilize best practices to make sure you’re getting the most from your spend

Google makes money when people click on your ads. If you’re not careful when you set up your campaign then Google can run ads that burn up your cash without reaching your target audience.

Steve Hill, Digital Marketing Director at Imavex, also spoke at July’s Smartups and laid out five key things that startups can do to enhance their PPC campaigns so that they’re not wasting money.


  1. Abandon broad match typeIf you set up your campaign with broad match keywords, you’ll find yourself paying for clicks that aren’t relevant to your company. So make sure that you’re using modified broad match. When you change your keywords to modified broad match you’re telling Google that you need all of those words in a search before your ad will show up.
  2. Consider landing pagesCreate your campaigns so that ads take your customers to landing pages that are optimized for mobile, tablet, and desktop. Strip out the navigation in these pages so that customers aren’t distracted. Include call to actions in the landing pages so that customers know where they can take the next step.
  3. Utilize remarketingRemarketing is when you attach a cookie to customers who have visited your site so that you can serve them ads on other places on the Internet. Customers often need many interactions with a brand before they purchase or convert, and so remarketing is a cost-effective way to gain brand exposure.
  4. Use enhanced ad extensionsGoogle has created ad extensions as a way to display more information and increase clickthrough rates.  Hill recommends that businesses use site links, review extensions, and Google My Business (also known as location extensions).
  5. Bid strategically on location settingsYou can target your ads to geographic areas and even adjust your bids on things like zip codes, radius from a location, or city names. This is helpful if you want to reach out to customers in a 30-mile radius, but bid less on customers that are farther than ten miles as those customers don’t convert as well as closer customers.

Consider PPC as a Testing Ground for SEO

When you work on SEO and content marketing it can take months to attract visitors. But when you set up a PPC campaign your ads will start bringing customers to your site away. You’ll get advanced data on your visitors in days instead of waiting around to see if your SEO worked. You can use this data to guide both your PPC and SEO efforts.

Continue Efforts in Both Search and Paid

Another reason to keep PPC in your marketing arsenal is as a hedge against another big change in the search environment that could decimate your SEO efforts and leave you scrambling to catch up with your competitors.

So while it can be frustrating as a startup to play the Google game, just realize that while SEO can be effective, the online world is moving more towards paid advertising. So you need to be playing that game as well. If you start investing in PPC and balance it with SEO, you’ll be on top of the game before you know it.

Amplify Your Content Marketing Efforts Through Engagement & Paid Media

“I like to think of content as currency. Here’s why. If you give valuable content, you will earn valuable customers.” -Julie Perry, Director of Social Media at StrataBlue


Engaging With Your Customers Through Content

Content marketing has been around for over 100 years. In 1904 an unknown brand named Jell-O gave away free cookbooks on how to use their product. Within two years of distributing the cookbook, Jell-O earned over $1 million in sales.

Not every brand needs to create a recipe book, but you do need to reach your audience where they are and help them solve their problems. Brands that share quality content with their customers are seen as experts in their field and are more likely to gain customer trust. As customers start to trust your brand and benefit from your content they are more likely to purchase from you. So how do you reach your customers on the limited time and budget of a startup?

You need to focus your content marketing efforts on where your customers are.  Sharing your content via social media is a great way for you to amplify your content and reach your customers. For fashion brands this could be Pinterest or Instagram. For B2B businesses this could be Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs. Most businesses’ customers have a natural gathering place based on the types of content that interest them. One area where all businesses should put some content is on their own blog where they own the space and can post valuable content like articles, infographics, videos, and more that their audience can share with others.

Engaging Through Content On Twitter

Twitter is a great place to engage with your audience in a low-cost (or no-cost) way. Before her journey into marketing, Julie Perry spent over two years as a superyacht stewardess and wrote a book titled The Insiders’ Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess: Confessions from My Years Afloat with the Rich and Famous chronicling her adventures.  At April Smartups, Julie outlined how she amplified her content to promote her book, drawing on her 13 years of marketing experience for large and small brands in consumer electronics and other industries.


When Bravo TV launched a new show Below Deck that follows luxury yacht crews, Julie recognized an opportunity to connect with her audience and market her book. She followed the Twitter discussions on Below Deck in real time and saw some girls saying things like they’d “like to work on a boat”, “this was their favorite show”, etc. So, she favorited some of their tweets about the show, and when they saw that @WorkOnAYacht (her Twitter handle) favorited their tweet, they came over to her site. Books were flying off the shelf during that hour of TV each week thanks in part to her Twitter marketing efforts.

*Tips On Engaging With Twitter:
  • Retweet, favorite and follow your potential customers. By promoting them they will often research you and follow you back.
  • Always put a comment with a retweet, even if it’s small, so that the person feels valued.

Put Some Money Behind It

“No matter how successful your content, it’s going nowhere if you don’t put a little money behind it.” – Julie Perry

It is getting harder every day to get your content seen by customers. Just look at the controversy surrounding Facebook brand pages and how brands’ posts are being seen by a smaller portion of their followers. To get around this amplify your content with paid media.

Paid ads are a great way to overcome the noise that is out there on social media because of the amount of targeting they allow.

Amplifying With Facebook

During Below Deck’s season, Julie reached out to fans of Below Deck with Facebook display ads. She targeted the ads to young women between 19 and 31 who watched and liked Below Deck, and were not already connected to her page. She also created promoted posts (like the one below) where she took a quote from the show and connected it to her content about a detailed job description of a Yacht Stewardess.


Julie put $21.86 towards the promotion and received 185 website clicks, at about $0.11 a click, and a click through rate of more than 12%. This is a very cost effective way to reach a highly targeted audience. And at these prices you wouldn’t have to sell many books to make good money from the promotion.


Amplifying With LinkedIn & YouTube

LinkedIn and YouTube are also places to target potential customers and clients. LinkedIn can be a great option for B2B companies. On LinkedIn you should first create a company page where you can share your content just like Facebook and Twitter. Then, for your paid advertising, you can target individuals by job title, employer, company size, or even their interest and skills. As spends on LinkedIn can be higher than other channels, it’s a good idea to have a very narrow group you’re advertising to and send them to a very specific landing page.

On YouTube you can create pre-roll videos that are shown before viewer-selected movies. The content you use is up to you, but you can start out with helpful content you might already be making.

These videos can be skipped after only five seconds, so make sure you make the beginning compelling and information packed so that viewers don’t skip your ad. You can target people based on their age, gender, viewing history, interests and geography, and even remarket to people who have already visited your site.

You will not be charged for your pre-roll video until somebody has watched at least 30 seconds of your ad. So if you create a 32-second video that sort of cuts out at 28 seconds and your viewer skips the rest, you will not pay for that view. This effectively gets you more great brand impressions that you don’t pay for.

At the end of the day, content marketing is a great way to market your business, but only if you know who you’re sharing your content with. So find the best ways to connect your content with your audience and add some paid media to make sure you get seen.

13 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Meeting Potential Advisors

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is the #1 mistake young entrepreneurs make when trying to pursue relationships with potential mentors or advisors?

Dan Price1. Not Being Specific About What They Need

They generalize what exactly they need help with. I see this when I’m asked, “Will you be my mentor?” We have so many relationships today that this type rarely exists. Instead, they should come prepared and say, “Here’s what I need right now. Here’s how you can help me get from point A to B or make a connection for me.”
Dan Price, Gravity Payments

lawrence watkins2. Giving Up After the First Email

Usually, the mentors who you would like to have are busy making a substantial impact on the world. If this is the case, they may miss or forget to respond to your initial attempt to reach out and connect. This is why it is important to follow up with potential mentors more than once. Some will respond, and others will not, but it is important to try more than once.
Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

Michael Quinn3. Being Too Persistent

Chances are the person whom you would like to become your mentor has a lot going on already. You need to approach him with your interest, but don’t be overwhelming. A few reminders and follow-up emails will probably be necessary, but don’t scare him off.
Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive

Andrew Vest4. Not Providing Value to the Other Party

This is networking 101. In any relationship, there has to be a mutual benefit between both parties. Mentors and advisors — regardless of how successful they are — still have the urge to learn and grow themselves in some form or fashion. Time is a commodity that has the highest value — even more so to mentors and advisors. They have funds already, so their time is worth its weight in gold!
Andrew Vest, Preferling

Danny Boice5. Not Timing Their Approach

It helps immensely to have a bit of buzz, whether it be in the media or community, before you approach a high-value mentor or advisor. It is human nature to want to be involved with potential winners. Generating some buzz or other positive attention for your startup or yourself will help garner the attention of the right mentors and advisors right away.
Danny Boice, Speek

Bhavin Parikh6. Not Saying Thank You

I have had many conversations with entrepreneurs trying to start new companies, but very few follow up with a “thank you.” When I talk with other founders, I’ve found that this is a theme. Young entrepreneurs should realize that they are building relationships — not transactions — and take the time to show appreciation to those by sending a simple thank you email. It goes a long way!
Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Inc

Kasper Hulthin7. Keeping Your Ideas Secret

You never know when you’ll potentially meet your best mentor. But the surest thing in the world is that you will never meet him unless you share your ideas. Whenever I ask someone about what he is working on, and he replies, “I can’t really tell you,” I think to myself, “You just missed your opportunity for me to help you.”
Kasper Hulthin, Podio


8. Approaching the Mentor or Advisor as a “Fan”Michael Parrish DuDell

It’s important to have respect for a potential mentor or advisor, but it’s never wise to approach the relationship from a place of fandom. When you do that, you establish an unequal power dynamic, which ultimately muddies the relationship. You should always strive to be seen as a colleague — never a fan.
Michael Parrish DuDell, Race + vine

Chris Cancialosi9. Not Seeking Cross-Industry Mentors

I think a lot of young entrepreneurs think effective mentorship comes from someone who has experience in their same industry. I’ve found that a ton can be learned from people who have struggled and succeeded in any industry — if you take the time to listen. It’s less about the same experiences and more about the right experiences when it comes to finding a great mentor.
Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Erin Blaskie10. Creating Conflicts of Interest

I am often approached by people who would like advice on their business and suggestions on how to get clients. Although I love being able to support people in their ventures, it becomes difficult when the person is in the same industry as I am and would be competing for clients. Choose a mentor or advisor who is similar, but not so similar that it becomes a conflict of interest.
Erin Blaskie, Next Dev Media

Justin Baille11. Setting Expectations Too Low

The biggest mistake young entrepreneurs make when trying to pursue mentors is not reaching high enough. As a young entrepreneur you need to decide who you want to emulate and reach out to them. It’s okay to get pushed back or pushed down. You will still land in a much higher place than if your expectations been set low to begin with.
Justin Bailie, FR8nex.com

Emerson Spartz12. Being Too Afraid to Ask

There are a lot of mistakes that young entrepreneurs make when it comes to mentorship, but the biggest one they make is not having the courage to ask the right people to mentor them. People love to share their knowledge, and you will be surprised by how often the answer is “yes.” One great mentor is worth five very good ones, so shoot for the stars.
Emerson Spartz, Spartz

Amanda Barbara13. Not Knowing How Many Questions to Ask

Find a happy medium between asking too many questions and not enough. It’s important to outline your goals and who in the industry is interested in connecting with you to help further your business.
Amanda Barbara, Pubslush

How Twitter Creates Customer Engagement

wabash students visit twitterAccording to Statisticbrain.com, there are numerous staggering statistics surrounding Twitter:

  • 645,750,000-Number of active registered Twitter  users
  • 135,000-Number of new Twitter users signing up everyday
  • 195 million-Number of unique Twitter site visitors every month
  • 58 million-Average number of tweets per DAY
  • 9,100-Number of tweets every SECOND
  • $405,500,000-Twitters Advertising revenue for 2013


So How Do I Leverage Twitter?

With stats like that, you might wonder, how do you grow a fan base of that size and how do you keep it running? This brings about lessons on engaging customers, a topic that consumed a trip of 12 Wabash students to the glorious city of San Francisco. After visiting 10 different companies in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas, I’ve learned a lot about the importance in engaging customers.

While at Twitter, we learned some really cool facts. The most popular tweet of all time is Barack Obama’s “4 more years” tweet, announcing the successful win of the 2012 election. Other famous tweeters include regular pop stars such as Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga, but also, many athletic stars get a fair bit of twitter attention, including TJ Lang’s tweet acknowledging how terrible the refs were in September of 2012. The most retweeted tweets tend to focus on either humor or news, and ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ definitely plays a part (as if you could get any shorter with 140 characters to play with). Another thing we discussed with Twitter was the next steps for the company. Twitter already has a huge reach, but they are looking to expand even further globally. If you don’t currently Tweet, Twitter wants to know why and how they can convince you to join the network. Twitter wants to engage everyone in the world in their constant flow of quick information.

Standing Out From The Crowd

twitter increases customer engagement

The world is growing smaller by the minute, with faster travel, more global information, and more connectivity between people. However, with this idea of the world growing smaller, there is a flood of information that absolutely overwhelms everyone as consumers. You can’t walk 10 steps down a city block without seeing 30 different ads for this, that, and the other, each ad absolutely assuring you that you NEED this product in order to be hip, healthy, and happy. So with such an absolute deluge of information, what really stands out in the consumer mind? One word: engagement.

In order to really connect with a customer, companies have to engage with and interact with customers. Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all extremely popular companies because they have such a high level of engagement with their customers. Twitter is constantly blasting with snippets of news, short bursts of shoutouts and new trending topics. Developing companies need to establish an interactive personality with their clients so that the customers really appreciate the product they are engaging with. We visited a company called Red Rock Coffee, a small non-profit coffee shop run by a church. The shop has netted over 1 million dollars in revenue in the last 2 years alone from one location because they share with their customers where the product they are drinking is coming from. Knack, a company focused on creating games to make the evaluation process of recruitment much more streamlined, does the same thing, creating games that require focus from their users.

What Does A Successful Brand Look Like, Anyway?

increasing customer engagement with twitterSuccessful companies are no longer just the ones that have the coolest logos, the hottest models, or the furthest reach. The most successful companies engage their customers in such a way that the customer not only connects with the company but that the product becomes a regular part of their lifestyle. We live in a generation where people are addicted to Tweeting, drinking coffee, and playing video games. That is because the products they use are interactive. The road to success is paved by creating a lifestyle feel that customers can engage with through your company, where it would feel unnatural to use some other product.

Winning Startup Trade Show Ideas from The Innovation Showcase

It’s been a big year for Santiago Jaramillo and the BlueBridge Digital team. The kind of year that landed him on the Inc. 30 under 30 list.

Startup Conference Tips to Win

Santiago Jaramillo, Founder and CEO of BlueBridge Digital.

A year ago, BlueBridge had fifteen clients and three employees. They now have over 110 clients and more than fifteen employees, but that’s only the beginning–with plans to add 199 jobs over the next nine years, Santiago and BlueBridge are only going to continue accelerating.

And when Santiago pitched at The Innovation Showcase in July 2013, the team was already well on their way to growth mode: they took home 1st place in the Early Stage Startup category, attracted lots of attention from the startup community in Indiana (and around the country), and have continued to innovate in the mobile space.

So when Santiago shared with me how he and the BlueBridge team prepared for The Innovation Showcase, I knew it was advice worth heeding.

Santiago explained that three things take the most effort and time to prepare for startup conference and events: the exhibit, the team, and the pitch. Catch the full interview and my takeaways below.

Winning Startup Trade Show Ideas

Startup Trade Show Idea #1: Be Intentional with Your Exhibit

Attendees at most conferences won’t have any clue what your company does when they walk through the door, so start with the pain or problem you solve. Try to avoid industry jargon. Your goal is to be understood–to create an “Ah, yes, I see!” moment–not to speak over attendee’s heads.

BlueBridge delivers Mobile Apps as a Service (MaaaS?). Which may or may not come across clearly, even to a techno-literate audience.

Keep your exhibit simple, like your pitch, Santiago said. Put a lot of thought into the few items you will bring, and keep attendees laser-focused on the real value you provide–not the chintzy usb drive the booth next to you is giving away.

Startup Trade Show Idea #2: Be Intentional with Your Exhibit

Startup teams are tight-knit, but that doesn’t always mean that everybody is on the same page going into scrutinous environments like The Innovation Showcase. Prep your team with finely-tuned talking points to make sure the message is consistent. Rehearse.

“When you start describing what you do,” said Santiago, “There are just so many solutions out there that people wonder why you should even exist.”

So why does BlueBridge exist?

“There are more smartphones sold than babies born in the world,” said Santiago, chuckling. “It makes you laugh, but it captures their attention…and they’re willing to listen to how we’re solving that issue.”

Key Startup Trade Show Idea: Ask yourself what key metrics you can share, and how you can create buy-in from attendees with your reason for being.

Startup Trade Show Idea #3: Perfect the 60 Second Pitch

Startup Conference Pitch

Santiago Jaramillo and his partner Adam Weber delivered a conversational, easy to understand pitch that really resonated with the judges.

At The Innovation Showcase, companies only have 60 seconds to pitch–but since founders really only have about a minute to get the point across any time they pitch, the lightning-fast 1-minute pitch gets a lot more use than you might think.

“Put yourself in the shoes of your audience,” said Santiago. “You have to really simplify and condense.”

Key Startup Trade Show Idea: Keep your pitch simple. Really simple. Questions afterward do not always mean the pitch was unclear–often, they demonstrate real interest.

Santiago’s pitch style earned him a win at The Innovation Showcase–and if you’re thinking of applying for the 2014 Showcase, his advice is certainly worth incorporating into your pitch: “Be very specific, clear, and simple. Those people don’t know the industry and buzzwords like you do.”

“You want to be either loved or hated, but not ignored or confused!”

The Innovation Showcase is accepting exhibitor applications until April 30, 2014. Get your application in now for a chance to secure one of the first 15 spots!